UN accuses TPLF fighters of looting fuel

The UN say TPLF forces stole 12 fuel trucks from a WFP warehouse in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.

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The World Food Programme (WFP) has accused Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighters of looting 570,000 litres of fuel from the UN agency’s warehouse in the region.

The UN said TPLF forces stole 12 fuel trucks from a WFP warehouse in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.

Tigrayan forces, on the morning of August 24, “forcibly entered” the WFP warehouse in Mekelle and “stole” 12 truck tankers containing 570,000 litres of fuel, said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These stocks of fuel would be used solely for humanitarian purposes with the distribution of food, fertilizers and other emergency relief items,” Dujarric said in an August 25 statement.

He added that the “loss of fuel will impact humanitarian operations” in the war-torn Tigray region, where half of the estimated seven million people are in severe need of food aid.

The UN has condemned the “looting or confiscation of humanitarian goods on humanitarian premises”.

David Beasley, the WFP director, termed the alleged theft “outrageous and disgraceful” and urged the TPLF to return the fuel.

“Hours ago, Tigrayan authorities stole 570,000 litres of fuel for WFP operations in Tigray," he tweeted on Thursday. "Millions will starve if we don’t have fuel to deliver food."

"We demand the return of this fuel now,” he added.

Tigray leaders termed the allegation “unhelpful” when both sides had agreed to investigate the incident on Tuesday.

Getachewe Reda, the Spokesman said his group were keen to maintain a working relationship with humanitarian agencies to ensure food reaches the people.

“It is our sincere belief that the WFP in general and Mr Beasley in particular will see the errors of their ways and refrain from being unwitting accessories to [Prime Minister] Aby regime’s ongoing strangulation of Tigray,” he said.

Sumur Tsehaye, a political analyst, said the WFP’s losing a substantial amount of fuel contradicted the agency's recent claim that it did not have enough fuel.

On August 9, the WFP said fuel shortages were the reason the agency had distributed food to only about half the people it planned to reach in a recent food allocation.

"It is difficult to comprehend that WFP was sitting on 570,000 litres of fuel while hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans were starving to death" said Sumur.

"Additionally, I have not heard Beasley use strong words to condemn the atrocities committed against the people of Tigray, who [have been] denied their basic human rights for more than 22 months and counting. 

“They do not have access to electricity, water, telecommunications, medical [supplies], banking [to access their own money], transport and other basic necessities."

In December last year, USAID similarly accused Tigray forces of looting large amounts of food aid supplies from its warehouses in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.

The incident led to the suspension of food distribution in parts of Amhara.

The fresh looting allegation comes as the Ethiopian military on Wednesday launched its first large-scale offensive against Tigray, ending a five-month truce reached by the two sides.

Tigray forces have been at war with the Ethiopian government since November 2020.